62 posts categorized "Kosher"

24 October 2011

Salt beef

UPDATE: At long last I've got a recipe I'm happy with. Please use the new recipe, rather than the method below.

Better salt beef should be more widely available.  It is a cheap cut of meat ooh how age of austerity, that doesn't take much hard work, ideal because I just don't have any time to cook and yet current offerings are pretty mediocre.

True, hope might be on the horizon, West One Deli for those that keep kosher (and assuming they get round to opening, there have been interminable delays) and Mishkin's from the irrepresable team behind Polpo et al for those that don't.  

So limited supply has left me trying to perfect my salt beef recipe for sometime and I think I've now done it.  Using the recipe below, I ended up with some of the most delicious salt beef I've ever had the privilege to taste.  It is a bit saltier than commercial salt beef but far from too salty - it gives a pleasant tang, helped no doubt by the aromatics.

I feel heretical saying it, but my efforts were no thanks to two of my heroes.  My first attempt was a salty disaster - the only time that the now veggie Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has let me down.  I then read Claudia Roden's seminal work on Jewish cookery, but was uninspired by her recipe, especially the rather amorphous 'pickling spices' she proposes. 

I moved on to Fergus Henderson at the suggestion of a commenter on the blog.  I blithely followed him, until I received another comment on the blog saying his brine was far too salty.  Pah, I thought, what does this naif though compared to Henderson.  

I then re-read Henderson and realised he was recommending the same concentration of cure for a chicken as for salt beef.  This seemed a bit wrong and perhaps Nick Loman was worth listening to.

So I pimped Henderson's recipe, or rather I wimped out and watered it down.  For 4 days I had a 15% cure and for 1 day I had a 7.5% cure.  I suppose you could make life easier by just going for a 13.5% cure or 540g of salt to 4l of water.  (These percentages refer to the quantity of salt to water in the cure, where water is 100%.)

I didn't use salt-petre and didn't think it was any the worse for it.  The reason for using salt-petre is to ensure the beef doesn't lose its pink colour as a result of the brining process.  I didn't find the colour a problem.  The inside was brown, a bit like the centre of smoked brisket - rather delicious actually.

So here's what I did.

Please note that in total this recipe takes 5 days to brine and is cooked on the 6th day - although most of that time a lump of meat is sitting in some salty water and does not require much work from you. Just don't try to make it a few hours before guests arrive.

You will need a large non-metallic container to cure the meat in.

3.5kg brisket - make sure your butcher leaves some of the fat on it.

4 day brine

  • 400g caster sugar
  • 600g sea salt
  • 12 juniper berries
  • 12 cloves
  • 12 black peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4l water

5th day brine

  • 4l water

Cooking the beef

  • 2 bay leaves
  • Bunch of thyme
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 celery stick, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic

Bring all the ingredients for the brine to the boil.  Then allow to cool thoroughly.

Once cooled, pour the brine over the beef.  Make sure the beef is fully submerged, you may well need to weigh it down.

Leave it for 4 days.

On the 5th day, add a further 4l of water.

A note on curing & refrigeration: I don't refrigerate mine whilst it's curing because this is a preserving process afterall.  I leave it in a nice cool part of the house.  If you do refrigerate, bear in mind it will slow the curing process down, so for the same flavour you'll need to make it more concentrated or brine for longer.

On the 6th day - cooking day - remove the beef from the brine and rinse well under running water.

Put the beef in a pot with herbs and vegetables and cover with fresh water.  Cook it for about 3-3.5 hours.  You want it to be a rolling boil and by that I mean: the water's gently bubbling rather than furiously splashing for most of the cooking time.

03 October 2011

The kosher sausage collective

Do you want to buy some kosher sausage casings with me?

I ask because I do again and the quantities I need to buy them in are enormous, much more than I can use.

The hardest part it seems of making kosher sausages is sourcing the cases.  Until earlier this year, Devro manufactured the only kosher sausage casings that I've ever been able to get hold of.  However, they no longer make them because they cannot source the hides they need to make the collagen casings.

I've been able to track down a caddy of these casings and rather than see three quarters going to waste, I'd like to split them with other like minded cooks, who want to make sausages.  

If you are interested, then reply in the comments below or email or tweet me.

A final thought, what on earth are butchers going to do when the casings finally run out?  I rang four suppliers that, according to a helpful gentleman at Devro, might still have some stock.  Only two still had any casings in and both of those pointed out there wasn't much stock left. 

With a sausage shortage looming, the winter surely only days away, the only answer must be for us to make our own.  Away to your mincers.

26 September 2011

Rosh Hashanah 2011

The cooking fest appears to have come out of nowhere this year.  Things are made a bit more complicated - or rather cooking intensive - because the two days of Rosh Hashanah are immediately followed by Shabbat.  This requires an awful lot of planning, preparation, cooking and refrigerating in the run-up to Wednesday night, when the festival starts.

I have decided to try my hand at salting beef again.  After my earlier over-salted flop, I've decided to go with the St John's recipe of 150g of salt per litre.  I'm going to be curing it for 5 days.  I'll report back.  

I've also got some new green cucumbers pickling in the fridge.  I've been playing with my recipe, if this one works I'll write it up.

With 15 people to feed for one of the meals I am going to go with bollito misto yet again.  I can't get enough of it, I hope they feel the same.

At some point I'm going to do some roast lamb.  I've been trying to figure out if it's possible to weave in two of the key foods of Rosh Hashanah, apple and honey - perhaps a cider and honey glaze?  It may end up all a bit too sickly. Or, perhaps, a sharp cider might just work with the sweet honey and slightly fatty lamb.

I've been trying to figure out what veg and salads to do.  I'm quite tempted by radish and schmaltz, which is a traditional ashkenazi recipe.  I've never eaten it and it sounds a bit horrific, so I'm gruesomely curious.

I've been delving back into some of the classics and have come out inspired.  So I'm planning on making Sally Clarke's baked beans (or lentils) and honey roasted endives and parsnips, Stephen Bull's red cabbage salad, the St John's Bread & Wine salad and Orbs of Joy (onions roasted in chicken stock). Although I know I want to make them, I don't yet know which meal they'll be deployed at.

If I can pull my finger out in time, I might try my hand at baking cholla.

You can be sure that my new favourite dessert will make an appearance, as will some apple and honey sorbet, fresh figs and pomegranate.  And some dates.  Oh and I'd better not forget the Bendicks, the ne pas ultra of after-dinner indulgence if you keep kosher and therefore don't eat dairy products immediately after eating meat.

31 August 2011

Bea's Vegan Chocolate Cake

I don't really bother with desserts.  It's not that I don't have a sweet tooth - I do, as much as the next fat man.  Rather, I have a technical problem with them. Specifically, the prohibition under the laws of kashrut to mix milk and meat.  

Whilst we're banned from combining milk and meat in recipes - nyet to chicken kiev for example - we also have to wait an extended period of time between eating meat and eating dairy products.  The gap I observe is 3 hours.  Which is why I don't really bother with dessert.  Dessert is all about milk, cream or butter, so really what is the point.

Some people get around this by going to town on the multitude of substitutions available but I consider them to be abominations.  I also think that generally after a relatively heavy meal, some fresh fruit or sorbet is not the end of the world.

But I have hankered for some time after a decent dessert that I can pull out of the bag when necessary. Something beyond lokshen pudding (bread and butter pudding, without the bread or butter) or almond cake in orange syrup (a Sefardi/Spanish favourite).  And I just may have found one in Tea with Bea: Recipes from Bea's of Bloomsbury.

As the name suggests, this is the first book from Bea Vo, owner of the eponymous Bea's of Bloomsbury. Over the years of blogging, tweeting and eating I've got to know Bea fairly well.  I can tell you this about her: her cakes are outstanding, she's a voracious collector of cookbooks, she's a great source for sourcing hard to find produce and she knows her way around the restaurant industry.  I implore you to try her cakes, if that fails buy her book so you can try them yourself, or if that fails, just follow her on Twitter.  Unlike others, she doesn't spend her time self-promoting and is happy to engage in fairly broad ranging debate, when she's not baking.

So, I bought the book because I'm a fan and an acquaintance.  I also was hoping to learn a bit more about baking from it because I haven't had much experience and I'm not very good at it.  

Flicking through the book from back to front, as I always do with new cookbooks, my eye was caught by the Vegan Chocolate Cake.  At first, I was a bit horrified.  Bea is not a lady who panders to whims and I feared she had sold out to the whiny-brigade.  It then dawned on me that I have a claim to be a member of that particular army and Bea might just be a saviour and perhaps I could overlook my substitution snobbishness and accept soy milk in a recipe.

The cake was a revelation.  The sponge tasted of Oreos - a good thing - and the icing was simply very rich chocolate.  It was delicious.  

I should admit that whilst it tasted lovely, mine looked like a disaster, a reflection of a few issues I had baking it.  For example, after making the chocolate mousse filling/topping, it looked like someone had staged a dirty protest in our kitchen.  Further, being an impatient baker and egged on by a young child, I decided to layer on the chocolate icing before the cake had fully cooled.  Therefore I cut the sponge before it was cool and put chocolate on top of warm sponge.  Not very accomplished.

As per Bea's note at the start of the recipe, you don't need to bother telling people it's vegan when you give it to them, it might put them off.  Then again, this does have its advantages, such as there's more for you to eat and in my experience the sponge benefits from a being a day or so old.

The recipe I give below is for my version of the chocolate cake.  The main difference with the one that Bea has in the book is that I'm lazy.  I didn't include the raspberries, strawberries or crystallised violets she suggests incorporating into the mousse.  They do sound good though.

Serves 8-12

For the cake

  • 23cm round cake pan, greased and baselined with parchment paper
  • 275g plain flour
  • 100g natural cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • a pinch of salt
  • 450ml unsweetened soy milk
  • 2 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 320g caster sugar
  • 320ml sunflower oil
  • 2 tbsp vanilla extract

For the mousse

  • 800g good quality dark chocolate, chopped (or in my case smashed) into pea-sized pieces
  • 600ml hot water
  • lots of ice - I used about 400g

Preheat the oven to 160C, gas mark 4.

Put the flour, cocoa powder, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and salt into a large mixing bowl and sift twice through a sieve.

In a separate bowl, whisk the soya milk, vinegar, sugar, oil and vanilla extract.  Pour into the flour mixture and stir until well combined.  I took that to mean a consistent colour throughout the mixture.

Spoon the lot into the prepared cake pan and bake in the preheated oven for 40-55 minutes.  Bea suggests that you can test when it's done by inserting a wooden skewer into the centre of the cake.  If cooked, the skewer should be crumb-free when you pull it out.  She also says that when the cake is ready, if you press the middle of the cake it should spring back, rather than sink.  If it does sink, or your skewer is crumb-laden, return the cake to the oven for a further 5-10 minutes and check again.

Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove from pan, probably with the aid of a knife and cool on a rack for 1 hour.

While it's cooling you can make the mousse.

Put the chocolate in a large, wide heatproo bowl over a saucepan of simmering water.  Don't let the base of the bowl touch the water.  Leave the chocolate until it is melted, then stir with a wooden spoon until smooth and glossy.

Remove from the heat.

Pour the hot water into the bowl of chocolate and mix until nice and smooth.

Sit the bowl in a dish filled with ice cubes.  Using an electric whisk, quickly whisk the chocolate and water mixture thoroughly and quickly until a stiff mousse forms.

Don't forget my warning about the dirty protest.  The kitchen re-decoration wasn't helped by my mousse not thickening.  So, as per Bea's suggestion, I melted more chocolate and whisked that in quickly and suddenly it became a mousse.

She suggests that if it gets too thick, you can add a touch more warm water, or espresso, or whisky to thin it out.

Then cut the cake horizontally.  She suggests 3 layers, but I didn't risk it and opted for two.  Then again, mine was in a near state of collapse given my haste and refusal to let it fully cool.

You then spread the mousse between the layers and on top of the cake.  If you're using the various berries and sweets, now's the time to add them.

Eat and enjoy.

13 May 2011

Gefiltefest 2011 programme is rather tasty

I know I said was excited before, but having just received the (draft) final programme (pdf) for Gefiltefest 2011 from Michael Leventhal, the organiser, now I'm really excited.

For far too long I have harped on about the parlous state of kosher food in the UK, feeling like I was screaming into a void.  It turns out there are others out there who actually care and Michael has corralled them for the day.

There are almost too many interesting things to contain in one measly post, but I'll have a go:

Adam Taub's talking on 'Have you eaten? 4 meals that transformed the Jewish People'.  You may not have heard of Adam but he's a great speaker, brilliantly engaging.

Rose Prince - yes as in that Rose Prince, and that one and that one, yes her - is doing a cookery demonstration on Jewish flatbreads.  I'm guessing there's more to this session than just pitta.

There are sessions on bee-keeping, the politics of food, the Torah's approach to farming and a demonstration of Tunisian cooking.

More esoterically there's an event on Japanese Jewish cooking.  Eh?  And a session called 'Reel Food and Sex: Food on Film'.  Ahem.

Back to the straight and narrow, there's the all important tasting session comparing staples like bagels, cheesecake and challah.

And finally, I may even be doing the odd session.  Oh ok then, I'll stop being bashful.  I am doing three sessions, one on the current state of kosher restaurants entitled a little bit provocatively 'Kosher restaurants are rubbish', I'm compering the tasting mentioned above and hosting a film screening of three shorts.

UPDATED: You can download the final programme here (pdf).

I will update this post, especially once the programme is finalised. 

Gefiltefest will be taking place at the LJCC on Sunday 22 May 2011.  Tickets and further info are available here.



14 April 2011

Gefiltefest, the London Jewish food festival

image from www.silverbrowonfood.com
image from www.silverbrowonfood.com

I've banged on about it before, but I'm rather excited to say that Gefiltefest is not far away at all.

It has taken on an impressive life of its own and I think organiser Michael Leventhal is going to need a large scotch on the evening of May 22nd.

The programme has not yet been finalised, but is nonetheless shaping up nicely.  The most encouraging element is that this isn't just a riff on salt beef and bagels and the limited extent that most people assume is 'Jewish food', rather it is set to be an intelligent mix of cultural and religious sessions, whilst addressing the glorious topic of food.  Agonising over what is Jewish food is quite normal in the US, it's nice to see it is now becoming more mainstream in the UK as well.

As a final hook with which to reel you in, Gefiltefest is being held at Ivy House, home of the London Jewish Cultural Centre.  It has got stunning gardens and assuming it's a lovely day, you'll be able to take advantage of some great open space.

Please also note that you can get a discount on tickets if you buy now.

The ticket prices are as follows.  You can purchase them on the LJCC site

£25 on the day.
£22 if you book before 20 May

12's & under:
£2/session (morning and afternoon)

£15 on the day
£12 before 20 May

Finally, if anyone is making a special trip up to North London and wants to take advantage of some of the local culinary kosher delights in addition to the delicious food you'll get at Gefiltefest, I'd be happy to point you in the right direction.  Let me know if a little guide would be of interest.

12 April 2011

MEPs shy away from honest labelling of meat & obscure the issues.

When it comes to food regulation the EU has a bad reputation.  These may not be entirely accurate recollections but I'm sure I've seen mutterings about the bend of bananas, the tinge of tomatoes or the provenance of pasties.

It can seem so silly and petty.  Most often it seems fundamentally wrong-headed.  And so it has come to pass yet again, this time some Members of the European Parliament have decided to focus on slaughter by the halal and shechitah methods.

The regulation on food information for the consumer is supposed to be about allowing consumers to make healthier choices when they buy food.  Struan Stevenson, a Scottish Tory MEP and some colleagues have decided to stretch the meaning of healthy as far as possible and are trying to re-direct the regulation to incorporate some spurious animal welfare ideas. In particular, he has singled out the slaughtering methods of the Jewish and Muslim religions for special labelling treatment.  You can read his amendment here (Word doc, pg 138, amendment 354) but for those who don't want to scroll I'll quote:

"This product comes from an animal slaughtered by the Halal method"


"This product comes from an animal slaughtered by the Shechita method"

In other words they want a sticker across your pack of mince saying

"Don't buy this meat.  It was SLAUGHTERED by RELIGIOUS nutjobs"

To be clear, Mr Stevenson is not asking for other meat to be labelled according to its slaughtering method.  So for example if you happened to buy meat that was killed at this abattoir Mr Stevenson does not think it necessary that your food is labelled

"Don't buy this meat.  We have it on camera that they are psychopaths that kill the animals and we all know that psychos torture animals before they turn their attention to humans.  Steer well clear!!!!"

He's just focusing on those darned Jews and Muslims.

I shouldn't just pick on Mr Stevenson, despite what a tempting target he makes.  Dan Jørgensen, Christel Schaldemose and Sirpa Pietikäinen want your meat to say

"Meat from slaughter without stunning"

But my favourite is from the brilliantly named Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy who wants to target

"Meat and meat products derived from animals that have not been stunned prior to slaughter, i.e. have been ritually slaughtered"

Hmm, that reminds me of that scene in Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom where the guy's heart gets ripped out whilst he's alive

Before we get too carried away with all this blood lust, let's just remind ourselves that this legislation is supposed to be about ensuring that consumers make healthier choices. 

Mr Stevenson has made no attempt to argue that his amendments benefit the health of the consumer, for the obvious reason that he never could.  Whatever one's moral issue with shechita or halal, you'd be hard pushed to argue that meat killed by this method is less healthy than meat killed by secular methods.

So why do Mr Stevenson and his colleagues think it's so important that consumers know and what could the consequences of such knowledge possibly be.  With Indiana Jones in mind, it's hard not to think that possibly, just possibly, people might be put off a teency bit by the big bad label.

The average consumer will be innocently trying to buy a leg of lamb when they see a label telling them the following facts:

Fact: Their meat was slaughtered. 

"No way, my meat was slaughtered?!  I don't want meat that has undergone anything like slaughter.  No siree.  Never in my life have I eaten meat that was slaughtered. I'm not starting now."

Fact: It was slaughtered for religious reasons.

"Those bastards, look what they've done.  What was it Marx said about all religious nuts smoking opium.  He was right, otherwise no-one would slaughter meat."

Which leaves our consumer wandering off in a haze looking for some meat that clearly hasn't been slaughtered and clearly hasn't been slaughtered to sate some fanatics' blood lust.

Oh pish you say, Silverbrow you're exaggerating.  Am I?  If I am, then why aren't Mr Stevenson et al calling for labelling of all meat.  Why not propose

"Meat from slaughter but the stunning didn't quite work so to all intents and purposes this animal wasn't actually stunned"


"Chicken that was too short to get fully electrocuted in the water bath.  But don't worry, we had already sliced off its beak to stop it fighting with its bathing companions"


"Meat from a pig that wasn't fully knocked out when we gassed it"


"Meat from an animal that required multiple bolts to the head because the gun was a bit defective or perhaps the bloke using it was just a bit shakier today than he was yesterday."

If the MEPs really cared about informing consumers then they'd go the whole way with labelling.  They wouldn't stop at halal or shechitah.  They shouldn't stop there because as they know full well, there is nothing wrong with them.  They cause no more pain to the animal being slaughtered and in many cases, especially when compared to the vast majority of slaughtering in the UK, much greater care is taken of these animals.

So MEPs, why can't you rise to the challenge?  The kosher and halal communities already label their food.  They're past masters at it.  Why don't you either accept that your amendments have nothing to do with this legislation.  Or, if you insist on the worst kind of policy creep, then go the whole hog and allow the consumer to be truly informed.  Admittedly it won't impact their ability to make healthy choices but it might open their eyes to the cruelty of so much secular slaughter.  The consumer can think twice about buying the bacon from the gassed pig or steak from the floundering, wounded cow.